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Obama Reassures Britain On Oil Spill, Afghanistan

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom in the Oval Office, Saturday, June 12, 2010.

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom in the Oval Office, Saturday, June 12, 2010.

U.S. President Barack Obama has reassured British Prime Minister David Cameron that his criticism of the London-based oil company BP is not an attack on Britain. The two leaders discussed the massive Gulf oil spill and other matters in a telephone call on Saturday.

Officials at 10 Downing Street say President Obama assured Prime Minister Cameron that he sees BP as a global company, and that his frustrations about the oil spill have nothing to do with national identity.

British officials say the two leaders held a warm and constructive telephone call for more than 30 minutes.

The White House says both men agreed that BP must do all it can to respond effectively to the spill.

The president and prime minister spoke as the U.S. government gave BP 48 hours to offer a better plan to contain the leaking oil.

Mr. Obama has recently stepped up his criticism of BP, whose ruptured undersea well has been pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico for almost two months, devastating the region's fishing and tourism industries.

The president has repeatedly called the company by its former name, British Petroleum. That and the intensified criticism have led to angry responses by British politicians and media.

Mr. Cameron has been under pressure to urge the president to soften his language. In their discussion Saturday, he expressed his sadness about the disaster, but emphasized BP's economic importance in both countries and elsewhere.

Mr. Obama responded that he had no interest in undermining BP's value. The company's stock has lost 40 percent of its value since April 20, when the oil rig exploded, triggering the spill.

The Obama administration has denied that the spill has caused tension between the U.S. and British governments.

The White House says the president and the prime minister also discussed the war in Afghanistan, where Mr. Cameron recently visited. The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to NATO's mission there.

In addition, Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron talked about the upcoming G8-G20 summit in Canada, and efforts to hit Iran with further sanctions for its nuclear program.

The Obama administration says the British prime minister will visit the White House on July 20.

The two leaders spoke hours before the U.S. and England met in soccer's World Cup for the first time in 60 years. The White House says the president and the prime minister placed a wager on the match, with the leader of the losing nation sending some of his country's best beer to the winner.

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